Civilization and the Grail

Probably most of you are familiar with Marko’s essay on Why the Gun is Civilization, (also widely copied and mistakenly attributed to some unknown “Maj. Caudill” ) and maybe also with the “Grail-Gun” series at Borepatch by, ASM826 – which  got me thinking about how many of my own guns are “Grail-Guns,” and it seems to me that the Holy Grail was really the chalice of Civilization, so grail-guns are really our way of holding onto that surprising Relic.  Interesting confluence, that.

My first rifle, the Krag-Jorgenson M1898 inspired me to learn to shoot – and I almost got into re-enacting.  I was bent on acquiring several pieces of Soldiers’ kit, but while looking around the whole turn-of-the-century military re-enacting “scene” pretty much dissolved.  So now I have a hat that’s worthy of the era, and an old leather belt and holster, and a 1900-dated Krag bayonet – because before the Gun was Civilization there was The Knife – and it’s a big one!  I also set to reading and studying to learn more about the conflict in the Philippines where the Krag rifle saw the most action.   I had never known or been taught anything about that time before, and the enthusiasm of it all inspired me to obtain the appropriate side-arm – but not the weak Colt .38 that caused the adoption of the 1911,  only its immediate predecessor would do, the M1909 Colt New Service.

I enjoyed firing the old rifle in bolt-action matches at my gun-club (that I joined because my dirt-ridin’ friend who helped me learn to shoot was a member), and thereupon came the second grail; an 1944 M1 Garand from the CMP.  And with the fire of Civilization ignited within me, I sought out the companion side-arm, a Colt M1911a1.  Had I been from a family of Marines an Ithaca or a Remington-Rand might have been the Grail, but my dad was Navy.  And it didn’t stop there, because my brother had an M1 Carbine I had to have one too.  His was a Rock-O-La, and mine became a National Postal Meter Carbine.  And I also needed bayonets for each rifle and carbine, and the book War Baby detailing the development and wartime production of the carbine, distributed among ten different contractors.

And as an aside for the Garand, while my Father-in-Law was dying a few years ago his roommate (briefly) at the sanitarium was an old soldier who had served in the Pacific Theater as an original Army Ranger.  His short term memory wasn’t much better than the FIL, but he could go on at length about his war experience, hiking up and down the mountains of New Guinea in the mud.  He said that years later he was at a WWII museum in Hawaii where a rifle was on display, and he recognized the serial-number – it was his own Garand.  And so I read The Ghost Mountain Boys, about the New Guinea campaign and then Sledge’s “With the Old Breed” about the fighting at Peleliu and on Okinawa.

But apart from these small bits of study and besides reading about WWI aircraft as a kid, my Military History and tactics knowledge is slim, thus NotClauswitz – which I even spelled wrong.  I was never good at playing RISK either.


Ailments of Age

All the work has been enjoyable to a certain degree, and necessary and worthwhile.  With the abundance of overgrowth we almost always fill two large, green, wheeled, yard-waste bins with tree trimmings and shrubbery-bits.  In order to make (all) that stuff fit into the bins, I grab a pair of 1-3/4″ by-pass loping shears and attack the contents of the bins as a human chipper while my Beloved throws-in the airy branches.  The result is a home-done chipping job with a densely packed can – the real trick is later pushing the now-heavy can up the steep driveway for pickup.

So my shoulder and arm muscles are getting a workout worthy of a gym, without having to share space with sweaty people and their messy secretions and  contagions.  Bending around the tree-branches and finding awkward positions to do work is another kind of stretching exercise, too.  And so the other night after all the work was done, while shifting in my chair to watch TV, I suddenly felt like I had just pulled all the muscles in my right side from back to hip.  My first thought was whether I had somehow dislocated a few ribs,and how?  It felt exactly like the busted-ribs episode on the Motocross track fifteen years ago… Alternatively it was like a right-rear-rib total impingement syndrome.  Yow!  It hurt like hell and ibuprofen and ice was summoned.  Sleep was a fidgety affair aided by a glass or two of wine.

Then this morning I awoke at 4:54 (Casull?) with a repeat occurrence.  Also I had to go to the bathroom.  Now I was a bit more worried since I had read somewhere that the liver is in that region and could be acting up.  The glucosamine-chondroitin I’ve been taking has really had no discernible effects, so I had quit taking it – could this be a withdrawl symptom? Anyhow we will attempt a detoxifying regimen with green smoothies and assorted liver-placating fluids and diet, just to see how that works.  Should also slough off a few unnecessary pounds in the process.

Also the winds have shifted and temperatures have dropped out of the 90’s – the atmospherics are indicating Summer is really now over, so it’s a chance to rest and recuperate after all the work.  My shoulders are sore but my knee is much better – time to go riding in this mild Mid-80’s weather.

UPDATE: What mule kicked me in the ribs?  Ow, this is not very fun.  Pain is only the feeling of WORK leaving the body…

UPDATE-UPDATE: If this doesn’t start getting better I may have to do down to see the Doc, meanwhile more ice and ibuprofen and my kidney-belt for compression.  Reminds me of the late 1990’s motocross incident. Ow.

Guns-n-Airplanes of my Youth

In the fall towards the end of my 7th year we left our precious and protected bubble-life among the BayAryans, and flew to an overseas destination that was anything but protected.

It was on a cool and blustery morning that we climbed into a hulking Pan-Am helicopter at the local airport and flew up to the big airport in San Francisco, then away to foreign land on a Pan-Am Jet Clipper 707s.  Hawaii our first destination was delicious nectar.  We stayed with old Missionary friends of my parents and ate poi at Church on Sunday – a slightly different take on the usual Communion Host.  A few days later Japan was next and it was raining upon arrival.  Tokyo was *interesting* wet-and-hot, and more Church friends to visit in Kyoto.  Following that we arrived in Bangkok Thailand (and stayed in a Missionary bungalow – you get the picture?).  The waterways called klongs and general environment was exotic beyond belief, and the heat had increased.  Our friends there were the Naval Attaché whom my dad knew from Annapolis.  Finally we landed in Calcutta – which was hotter than hell and stank like the devil, and still a hundred miles from our final destination.

At eight years old, desperately bored in the heat and humidity of the blistering sun, I would lay on my stomach on the cool red-purple tile floor and choose a random volume from the Encyclopedia, and open it up to and read.  The first long, multisyllabic word that I asked my older brother how to spell was, “How do you spell, Machine-gun?” And he replied patiently because he was a whole year-and-a-half older, “Mac-Hine-Gun – you pathetic moron.”  So learned to spell Machine-gun and studied its operation.

The diagrams in the Encyclopaedia Britannica for the air-cooled gas-operated .30 Caliber gun were tiny but detailed, with arrows and numbers.  It was a treasure-trove.  My young eyes and inquiring mind sought out each detail, from the combustion of the propellant, to the bullets’ travel, to the gas pushing on the bolt to reverse the bolt impulse, to cambering another cartridge – and it was there that I knew the cartridge was not one thing – a bullet – but that it was comprised of other components: primer, case, powder, bullet.  Like how molecules build on atoms, and dysentery was made of various stains of surly and extremely unpleasant amoeba molecules that could nearly kill you as fast as a bullet.   And I got sick that winter and nearly died.  There was a week-long period of simultaneous vomiting and diarrhea until I was so weak I couldn’t stand up from my bed and had to crawl into the bathroom.  It sure seemed like I was done-for, and that’s how I remember it , but my parents don’t seem to remember anything much except for few doctor visits from the Missionary Clinic.  It must have been something bad in the food or unsanitary food-handling that even the unpleasant typhoid-cholera-diphtheria shots didn’t help.

Between the age of eight and eleven, I could tell you about many of the makes and models of WWI aircraft that ever flew – including their horsepower-to-weight ratio and engine size/hp – because I was busy reading, and the Encyclopedia Britannica had flight instructions and take-off and landing procedure as-documented were also very studiously examined, and nearly as important as reading Biggles – the legendary British airman, of whom the adventures  were usually available at the railway station reading/magazine cart.

I read about Otto Lilienthal who flew gliders in Germany and shifted his weight around to control them.  I read about the aces like the American Frank Luke who landed and took-off from a German observation dirigible, and race-car driver Eddie Rickenbacker, and the Canadians Ray Collishaw who flew a Sopwith Triplane, and Billy Bishop who flew an S.E.5a with a Lewis Gun mounted atop the wing and who may have shot-down and the Red Baron – Manfred Von Richthofen.  And in reading all this I also learned about Richard Wagner, the composer of the Flying Dutchman and the great French Aces like Georges Guynemer and Charles Nungesser .

So I *knew* how machine-guns worked and also *how* to fly, and my brother and I built numerous tissue-paper covered model airplanes – not just from those simple die-cut and numbered “kits,” but hand-built from wax-paper diagrams pinned down to a table where you had to cut all your own sticks and pieces and spars and shapes.  The center-of-gravity was a known concept and necessary component to aircraft design, and when I was nine I was determined to build a glider, and fly it off the rooftop of the old, three-story Missionary Bungalow.  Mom (always) said, “Not today, we’ll do that another time.”  And so my plans for a fabric-winged bamboo airplane never took final shape because it was dangerous.

Which was weird because we played with knives and the other usual dangerous toys, shot airguns (that were heavily controlled), swung from tall trees out over a canyon after jumping off a roof, slept under mosquito nets to avoid Malaria, traveled on steam-locomotives that stank like the devil, saw Leprosy and Elephantiasis close-up, had cobras rounded up from the garden – and generally lived amid a diverse population of where aboriginal bow-and-arrow hunters wearing only a lungi could be found sharing-space on the train platform next to a well-to-do Babu in perfect saffron-colored Kurta and Dhoti standing next to a khaki-dressed soldier holding a black-painted Short Magazine Lee Enfield with it’s forearm wrapped in wire.

And then they shipped us off to Boarding School and everything changed, again…

Loquat Tree and Japanese Maple

We deconstructed a layer of rock that was encircled around the loquat’s roots, and trimmed-out the various and sundry dead branches.  Also some of the overgrowth.  Then we tan-barked it.  IMGP1798_x1000Unfortunately now my neighbor’s back yard is more visible than before, but that will have to do.


Meanwhile the maple has an owie.  I was thinking of filling the void since it collects water during rainy season, but it seems that only encourages worse conditions – We hope the tree will survive because its graceful shape and gentle color is a real asset to garden – plus they are expensive to replace!



If Wishes Were Fishes

UPDATE:the co-Bloggger at the estimable Borepatch, has been doing a series of blog-posts on “Grail Guns,” as various bloggers and commentators have called-out to him with their most favored “if-cost-were-no-object” (nor time-travel either) special desires.

Pretend we’re sitting around the campfire talking about grail guns. What do you buy? You know the one. It’s what you would buy when the rich uncle you know nothing about leaves you 50 million dollars. The first one one, anyway.

Among the numerous and different catalog of firearms that people have chosen are various especially elusive (and some not so elusive) fighting handguns, rifles, and machine-guns – and also historical hunting arms.  So far he has showcased: The Spencer Rifle , the WWII Ithaca 1911A1 , the Detonics Combat Magnum , the African Mauser, in .404 Jeffery , The Lewis Gun (my favorite), The P08 Artillery Luger , Germany’s Iconic MP-40 submachinegun, the first modern assault rifle Sturmgewehr 44 , The M60 machine gun – the Pig , the Walker Colt , A pair: the Colt Single Action Army and a Winchester 1892 , a Colt Python , the Stoner 63 , the exotic AEK-919 , a Navy M14 , a Barrett M82 , his own Fav, the 1928 Thompson “Tommy” gun , an Original, Minty, Winchester Model 75 Sporter , and a Webley-Fosbery automatic revolver.

Most recently Borepatch himself had an inadvertent low-speed dismount from his motorcycle while on a trip south in Florida, and sustained some painful but non-life threatening injuries and probably could use an attaboy.  As fellow motorcyclists we hope this does not dispel his enthusiasm for the sport.

Sierras on Fire

Five fires suddenly erupted along a 3-1/2 mile stretch of Highway 80 this afternoon. The northern corridor which is the main overland trucking route is closed to westbound eastbound traffic from Applegate to Weimar. This seems awfully suspicious to me, based on the proximity and timing.
Update: Six large air-tankers and five helicopters are hitting the fire. Evacuations are taking place and the sound of numerous explosions is attributed to propane tanks that have gone-up. The fire is expanding rapidly, fanned by the afternoon winds. One home visibly engulfed in flames.
Fire-spokesman suggested when multiple fires occur close to dense population and the freeway such as this, it could very well be a poorly maintained older vehicle with a bad catalytic-converter that spews hot embers and sets fires as it is driven down the mountain, with the driver unawares of whats taking place behind them. Thanks a lot Enviro-Weenies for your pearl-clutching insistence of expensive and yet dangerous-too “safety” equipment like the catalytic-converter that we’re all forced to adopt.
UPDATE: “The Applegate Fire” is now 20% contained with 420 acres burned up in Placer County on Highway 80 between Applegate and Wiemar (pronounced “Wee-Mur”). A single eastbound lane of Hwy 80 has been opened.
The cause is under investigation, but per “At least two callers reported seeing several car tires burning along the interstate’s eastbound shoulder, California Highway Patrol officer Mike Martis said.” And in another report from ABC Newss10 “There was one call of someone throwing papers that were on fire out of a vehicle.”
UPDATE DAY-3: 1400 firefighters, no additional acreage burned (still 420) but only 30% containment. All lanes of Interstate-80 open since 9PM last night. Losses so-far: 6 homes/structures. “Defensible space” has shown its good effects, with many homes saved where it was used while next-door others’ were lost where it was not. Goats are a good way to keep-down the under-story fuels.
They threw a LOT of resources very hard and very quickly at this fire, from air tankers to helicopters and men – and the weather complied with low winds and lower temperatures. We wonder what would have happened if they had attacked the King fire with the same intensity and resources – instead it “blew-up” and grew to 100,000 acres.